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HOW TO SEE THE BRITISH MUSEUM IN FOUR VISITS

by

W. BLANCHARD JERROLD

London

1852







CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

VISIT THE FIRST

SOUTHERN ZOOLOGICAL ROOM.--Hoofed Animals:--Giraffe;
Walrus; Rhinoceros; Buffalo; Antelope.

SOUTHERN ZOOLOGICAL GALLERY.--Hoofed Animals:--Wild Ox;
Hippopotamus; Elephant; Llama; Bison; Armadillo; Deer.

MAMMALIA SALOON.--Bears; Monkeys; Cat Tribe; Dog Family;
Bear Tribe; Mole Tribe; Marsupial Animals; Seal Tribe;
Corals

EASTERN ZOOLOGICAL GALLERY.--Birds of Prey; Perching
Birds; Scraping Birds; Wading Birds; Web-footed Birds.

NORTHERN ZOOLOGICAL GALLERY.--Bats; Reptiles; Serpents;
Tortoises; Crocodiles; Frogs.

BRITISH ZOOLOGICAL ROOM.--Carnivorous Beasts; Glirine
Beasts; Hoofed Beasts; Insectivorous Beasts; British
Reptiles; British Fish.

NORTHERN ZOOLOGICAL GALLERY--_(continued)_.--Spiny-finned
Fishes; Soft-finned Fishes; Cartilaginous Fishes;
Sponges; Shell-fish; The Beetle Tribe; Butterflies and Moths.

EASTERN ZOOLOGICAL GALLERY.--Star-fish; Sea-eggs; Shells.


VISIT THE SECOND

NORTHERN MINERAL AND FOSSIL GALLERY.--Fossil Vegetables;
Minerals; Fossil Animals; Fossil Fishes; Fossil Mammalia.

THE EGYPTIAN ROOM.--Human Mummies; Animal Mummies;
Sepulchral Ornaments; Egyptian Deities; Sacred
Animals; Household Objects; Tools; Musical Instruments;
Toys; Textile Fabrics.

THE BRONZE ROOM.--Greek and Roman Bronzes.

ETRUSCAN ROOM.--Etruscan Vases

ETHNOGRAPHICAL ROOM.--Chinese Curiosities; Indian
Curiosities; African Curiosities; American Curiosities


VISIT THE THIRD

EGYPTIAN SALOON.--Egyptian Sculpture; Egyptian
Coffins; Egyptian Tombstones; Sepulchral Vases;
Human Statues; Egyptian Sphinxes; Egyptian Frescoes.

THE LYCIAN ROOM.--Lycian Tombs; Lycian Sculpture.

THE NIMROUD ROOM.--Assyrian Sculpture.


VISIT THE FOURTH

Townley Sculpture; Antiquities of Britain.

PHIGALEIAN SALOON.--Battle with the Amazons.

ELGIN SALOON.--Elgin Marbles; Metopes of the Parthenon;
Eastern Frieze; Northern Frieze; Western Frieze;
Southern Frieze; Eastern Pediment; Western Pediment;
Temple of the Erectheum; Temple of Theseus;
Lantern of Demosthenes.


CONCLUSION




INTRODUCTION.


The money to found a British Museum was raised by a lottery in the
middle of the last century. Sir Hans Sloane having offered his books
and museum of natural history to Parliament, for less than half its
value (20,000.), it was purchased, together with the famous Harleian
and Cottonian MSS., and deposited in Montague House, Bloomsbury, which
had been bought of the Earl of Halifax, for the sum of 10,250. Of the
present British Museum this beginning forms a very insignificant part.
The nucleus was established however; and soon eminent men, who valued
their literary and scientific collections as storehouses that should
be accessible to all classes of students, began to turn their
attention to the collections in Montague House. Foremost among the
donors George the Second should be mentioned, as having made over to
the nation the royal library, together with the right of demanding a
copy of every book entered at Stationers' Hall. Successively, the
libraries of Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Birch, Sir John Hawkins, Dr. Burney
and Garrick, and the Royal, Arundel, Lansdowne, Bridgewater, and other
MSS. were added to the great store. Captain Cook returned home with
additions to the museum of natural history; Sir William Hamilton's
collection of vases was purchased in 1772; the spoils of Abercrombie's
Egyptian campaign enriched the museum with some fine Egyptian
antiquities; grants of money secured the Townley marbles, the
Phigalian sculptures, and at last the Elgin marbles; and of late, the
accessions to the vast collection, including Layard's treasures, the
Xanthian marbles, fossils, birds, curiosities, from the frozen seas,
China, the solitudes of Central Africa, and other remote places, where
scientific men have been of late prosecuting their studies have been
received. In 1823 it was allowed by Parliament that the collection had
grown too large for the house in which it was crammed; and accordingly
in this year it was resolved to destroy the old residence of the Earl
of Halifax, and build a new structure on its site. Sir Robert Smirke,
the architect of the present structure, has certainly had good cause
to complain of the niggardly supplies voted from time to time for the
building, which has been twenty-eight years in progress. The
regulations for the admission of the public have fairly kept pace with
the progress of those liberal ideas to which the collection is greatly
indebted, and of which it is a monument. It will be interesting for
the visitor of to-day, to contrast the rules by which he is admitted,
with those that fettered his ancestors of the eighteenth century. In
the year 1759, the trustees of this institution published their
"Statutes and Rules relating to the Inspection and Use of the British
Museum." This instructive document may now serve to illustrate the
darkness from which, even now, we are struggling. Those visitors who
now consider it rather an affront to be required to give up their cane
or umbrella at the entrance to our museums and galleries, will be
astonished to learn, that in the early days of the museum, those
persons who wished to inspect the national collection, were required
to make previous application to the porter, in writing, stating their
names, condition, and places of abode, as also the day and hour at
which they desired to be admitted. Their applications were written
down in a register, which was submitted every evening to the librarian
or secretary in attendance. If this official, judging from the
condition and ostensible character of an applicant, deemed him
eligible for admittance, he directed the porter to give him a ticket
on the following day. Thus the candidate for admission was compelled
to make two visits, before he could learn whether it was the gracious
will of a librarian or secretary that he should be allowed the
privilege of inspecting Sir Hans Sloane's curiosities. If successful,
his trouble did not end when he obtained the ticket; for it was
provided by the trustees that no more than ten tickets should be given
out for each hour of admittance. Accordingly, every morning on which
the museum was accessible, the porter received a company of ten
ticket-holders at nine o'clock, ushered them into a waiting-room "till
the hour of seeing the museum had come," to quote the words of the
trustees. This party was divided into two groups of five persons, one
being placed under the direction of the under-librarian, and the other
under that of the assistant in each department. Thus attended, the
companies traversed the galleries; and, on a signal being given by the
tinkling of a bell, they passed from one department of the collection
into another:--an hour being the utmost time allowed for the
inspection of one department. This system calls to mind the dragooning
practised in Westminster Abbey, under the command of the gallant
vergers, to the annoyance of leisurely visitors, and of ardent but not
active archaeologists. Sometimes, when public curiosity was
particularly excited, the number of respectable applicants for
admission to the museum exceeded the limit of the prescribed issue. In
these cases, tickets were given for remote days; and thus, at times,
when the lists were heavy, it must have been impossible for a passing
visitor in London to get within the gateway of Montague House. In
these old regulations the trustees provided also, that when any
person, having obtained tickets, was prevented from making use of them
at the appointed time, he was to send them back to the porter, in
order "that other persons wanting to see the museum might not be
excluded." Three hours was the limit of the time any company might
spend in the museum; and those who were so unreasonable or inquisitive
as to be desirous of visiting the museum more than once, might apply
for tickets a second time "provided that no person had tickets at the
same time for more than one." The names of those persons who, in the
course of a visit, wilfully transgressed any of the rules laid down by
the trustees, were written in a register, and the porter was directed
not to issue tickets to them again.

These regulations secured the exclusive attendance of the upper
classes. The libraries were hoarded for the particular enjoyment of
the worm, whose feast was only at rare intervals disturbed by some
student regardless of difficulties. To the poor, worn, unheeded
authors of those days, serenely starving in garrets, assuredly the
British Museum must have been as impenetrable as a Bastille. We
imagine the prim under-librarian glancing with a supercilious
expression upon the names and addresses of many poor, aspiring,
honourable men--men, whose "condition," to use the phrase of the
trustees, bespoke not the gentility of that vulgar age. In those days
the weaver and the carpenter would as soon have contemplated a visit
to St. James's Palace as have hoped for an admission ticket to the
national museum.

These mean precautions of the last century, contrast happily with the
enlightened liberty of this. Crowds of all ranks and conditions
besiege the doors of the British Museum, especially in holiday times,
yet the skeleton of the elephant is spotless, and the bottled
rattlesnakes continue to pickle in peace. The Elgin marbles have
suffered no abatement of their marvellous beauties; and the coat of
the cameleopard is with out a blemish. The Yorkshireman has his
unrestrained stare at Sesostris; the undertaker spends his holiday
over the mummies, and no official suppresses his professional
objections to the coffins. The weaver observes the looms of the olden
time: the soldier compares the Indian's blunt instrument with his own
keen and deadly bayonet.



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